ACLU, NAACP sue to force release of Jamar Clark shooting video

Jamar Clark
This undated photo released by his sister Javille Burns shows Jamar Clark, who was fatally shot in a confrontation with police on Nov. 15, 2015, in Minneapolis.
Javille Burns via AP

Updated 4:20 p.m. | Posted 9:59 a.m.

The Minneapolis NAACP and the American Civil Liberties Union of Minnesota have joined forces to file a lawsuit that seeks to force a state agency to release video recordings from the police shooting of 24-year-old Jamar Clark.

The Nov. 15 police shooting of the young black man sparked protests in the Twin Cities, including a weeks-long occupation of the area in front of Minneapolis' 4th Precinct police station. One of the protesters' ongoing demands was for authorities to release videos of the incident.

The NAACP and ACLU say Minnesota law requires authorities to release the incident video as soon as possible.

"We are proud to be standing here with the NAACP demanding transparency and accountability of all organs of the government," said ACLU of Minnesota Executive Director Chuck Samuelson. "It's been two and a half months since a man has been killed in our community. The public has been waiting and waiting to find out what happened. It's enough. It's time."

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The legal team is arguing that the tapes should be public information under the state's Data Practices Act. Even if the court decides that an exemption covering the release of criminal investigatory data applies to the videos, they argue that the judge is allowed under another provision to consider whether the public good caused by releasing the tapes outweighs the possible harm.

Minneapolis NAACP President Nekima Levy-Pounds said the community is asking for justice and a transparent process around Clark's death. She said releasing the tapes would help ensure officers are held accountable for their actions.

"This young man was shot in the head. It's left a gaping wound in our entire community. And his family is still very heavily grieving the loss of Jamar Clark," Levy-Pounds said. "We do not want to see tragedies like this happen again."

Minneapolis police say Clark interfered with paramedics who'd been called to aid Clark's injured girlfriend on Nov. 15.

Some witnesses said police had Clark handcuffed when he was shot by an officer, but that's been disputed by officials with the Police Officers Federation of Minneapolis, who say Clark reached for an officer's weapon.

The Hennepin County Medical Examiner found that Clark died the next day of a gunshot wound to the head. The state Bureau of Criminal Apprehension has identified the officers involved in the shooting as Mark Ringgenberg and Dustin Schwarze.

The BCA, which is conducting the criminal investigation into the incident "remains fully committed to a fair, impartial, and thorough investigation into the incident that led to the death of Jamar Clark," the Minnesota Department of Public Safety said in a statement released last Tuesday.

"Releasing any evidence, including video, prior to the completed investigation and prosecutorial review is detrimental to the case," Public Safety spokesperson Bruce Gordon said. "The BCA will follow the law and release the videos and all other public data once the case is closed, as we would in any other investigation."

Officials with the U.S. Department of Justice are investigating whether Clark's shooting was a civil rights violation. Officials with the agency didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

ACLU and NAACP officials said Jamar Clark's family is not affiliated with the lawsuit.